Long Island Hospitality Ball 2017
By Paula Gottlieb Herman
Glittery stiltwalkers, feather plumed showgirls, mermaids frolicking in the pool, go-go dancer birdcages, and headline vocalists crooning on main stage, might make you think you’re on the Las Vegas Strip. But on Monday, June 26, all that and more greeted thousands of guests attending the 7th Annual Long Island Hospitality Ball 2017 (LIHB) at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury !
This was the 3rd year that Chef Paula and CookingWithStars.com covered the event as press. We arrived for media check-in at 5:00 PM, a full two hours before guests would come pouring in. Since LIHB is all about hospitality, we cruised the poolside food & beverage displays, shot photos and video interviews while I sampled colorful sushi rolls, watermelon & feta salad shooters, succulent short ribs, fried chicken in mini waffle cones with a honey pipette, eggplant meatballs, artisan baked breads, chicken sliders, chocolate pudding flavored with beer, etc.
Traditionally I am dressed in a chef jacket and my signature pink chef hat. But this time, I wore a pretty blue party dress and pearl choker. So I really wasn’t sure if vendors from years past who we interviewed, would even recognize me. But, they sure did. Some of them thanked us for the interviews we posted, and told us that they actually gained clients from them!
The Long Island Hospitality Ball was started 7 years ago by Keith Hart of the Hart Agency, as a way to bring the hospitality community together to raise money for cancer research. Keith, himself a thyroid cancer survivor, really knows how to put on a top-tier fundraiser. Including money raised that night, the coffers are now over $2M. The Baldwin Family hosts the annual event in honor of their mom’s Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, the recipient of the money from ticket sales, journal ads, raffles, etc. Billy, Daniel, and Stephen Baldwin were there to represent their mom, and hearing stories about how the foundation began, and all the cutting edge research being done at Stony Brook University Hospital from money donated each year from LIHB proceeds, was quite impressive.
Long Island Hospitality Ball 2017 had everything going for it, beautiful weather, amazing things to nibble and sip, live entertainment inside and outside, all for a cause many Long Islanders have a connection to. We covered the event for 6 ½ joyous hours. There were so many high points that night. One of my favorite moments, was interviewing Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti, after his stellar performance singing Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin standards. Sal was the Long Island pizza delivery guy who appeared on “America’s Got Talent” last year, and won our country’s hearts. After spending some time with this warm, gregarious, larger than life singer, it all made sense. While his life has changed enormously since being on the show, with his first EP album about to be released, with tour dates all around the country, he is still so devoted to his mom! Now, how much do I love that! I became Chef Paula to honor my parents’ memory! Sal also mentioned that he has plans to open up a restaurant down in Florida, Delray Beach or West Palm. So, naturally when that restaurant is opened, Chef Paula wants to be side by side with Sal and his mama learning how to make some of their family recipes. That is the essence of what Cooking With Stars was designed for.
Another special highlight of the evening was attending the VIP Awards Ceremony and hearing some hospitality industry war stories from the honorees including Giovanni Casano, Empire Wines & Spirits. Bobby Goodrich, Restaurant and Night Club Impresario, and Matthew Yonick, Manhattan Beer Distributors. One of the honorees, Rob Verderosa, the owner of Parlay and Mesita in Rockville Centre, was recuperating from a recent stroke, so his wife Frances accepted his award. I especially loved listening to the tales from Joan Reminick, Newsday Food Critic for 25 years. While Joan has retired from her job to help her husband currently battling colon cancer, it was mind boggling that she was able to keep her anonymity for so long while dining and critiquing LI’s eateries.
To the entire Long Island Hospitality Ball 2017 team, committee, honorees, sponsors, vendors, entertainers & guests, thank you for making this such a memorable evening!
So, if you missed this year’s event, please put LIHB 2018 on your radar! This party with a purpose is the perfect blend of food, drink, entertainment, and philanthropy. So, eat, drink and do good!